South Korea: It’s not 2002

South Korea have been one of Asia’s stronger sides historically, which says more about the weakness of the Asian game than the strength of the South Korean game.  They’ve qualified for the past seven World Cups and have always produced weak performances that saw them eliminated from the first round—except, that is, when they hosted the World Cup in 2002.  In that year, the unthinkable happened and South Korea made it all the way to the semi-final of the World Cup.  Much has been made about the legendary sea of red support that backed that team to victories. But even more was made of the series of astonishingly inept refereeing decisions that all went in favor of South Korea in their second-round elimination of Italy and their quarter-final elimination of Spain—two of the tournament’s favorites.  The conspiracy theorist certainly had a lot to work with; it didn’t help that the main organizer of the World Cup was an a shady figure with too much influence both in South Korea and FIFA. It is worth remembering, however, that they were coached by the great Guus Hiddink in that game, the man I view as the greatest tactician in world football today.

Today’s South Korea has no Guus Hiddink, and they don’t have many star names, but they are, nonetheless, a pretty solid team that plays well together.  Captain Park Ji-Sung is their best player, by far, and he has put in several excellent seasons playing for Manchester United.  Park Chu-Young is their best choice in attack.

If all goes according to plan and Ji-Sung plays at his best, South Korea could make it out of their group along with Argentina.  Don’t bet on them getting much farther, though.

The Guardian’s team guide.

Zonal Marking’s tactical analysis.

Squad list with links to player profiles on Fifa.com:

Korea Republic

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